Smurfs are from everywhere

It would seem that what is currently commonly known as commercial property development in comics (i.e. creation of a comic for a different reason than basically telling a story, but rather to sell stuff or prepare for a movie deal) is not as new as you might think.

The Smurfs, arguably one of the most valuable comic “properties” in the Franco-Belgian tradition, originally saw the light as (yet more) comic relief in La Flûte à six schtroumpfs, the sixth album in Peyo’s series Johan et Pirlouit. Their first proper adventure though, Les Schtroumpfs Noirs, was as the first in Spirou famed mini-récits, a series of inserts in the magazine that, after some tinkering, could be made into a tiny book with a full fledged story.

The eleventh story with the little blue dwarves, however, has an even more interesting background. The book was initially created as a promotional publication for the French biscuit bakery  Bisquiterie Nantaise in 1967. It was only included in the main series in 1970, after serialisation in Spirou magazine in 1969 (starting, quite befittingly, in the Space Special issue, coinciding with the moon landing). Or, never hesitate to repurpose your creations.

(ad from Pilote Magazine #396, 1967)

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Chvrches animated by Jamie McKelvie

I’ve just finished reading Phonogram by Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen and I’m pretty sure this must be the best comic I have ever seen to express the finesses and idiosyncrasies of music fandom, or rather, music nerddom. The idea of phonomancers, or musical wizards, who wield enormous knowledge of, er, indie Britpop to, well, rule their own little rooms, is almost too painfully and accurately recognisable. And McKelvie’s deadpan, understated art is simply to die for (and his work on The Wicked + The Divine shows that he’s still perfecting his unique grasp of technology and visual effects to further the story).

Thanks to an article on Comics Alliance I learned that in 2015 McKelvie collaborated with  Australian animation studio Mighty Nice on an animated music video for the song Bury It by Scottish electro band Chvrches, a band that in itself would doubtlessly be in the pantheon of the Phonogram denizens. It’s like art imitating art, and I’m constantly going back to it.

(check out the CA article for some very nice examples of rock posters by comic artists)

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Supervillains for our time

About a year ago, in February, 2016, the staff of GQ Magazine drew up a list of the true supervillains of our time. Never mind that it is seeminly humanly more possible to actually be a supervillain than a superhero (of the cape-wearing, flying, gizmo-wielding variety, that is), their selection is quite creepy. From Martin Shkrelli and Kris Jenner to Sepp Blatter and Vladimir Putin, to Donald Trump as the Lex Luthor for our times, it’s beginning to look a lot like we’re in a bad Marvel movie.

The only thing that saves this article from total despair, is the awesome talent of Arthur Adams, who provides the illustrations. Thank God.

(via Mostly Comic Art, which also has the black and white line art)

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Batman Lego magic

Never mind the ever expanding series of Lego superhero sets, this is the real deal. Lego virtuoso Paul Hetherington builds vast and intricate scenes full of drama and narration, with little details and grand motorised animation, and so far he’s tackled two Batman scenes that are just to die for.

The first one is a Golden Age Batman scene, with the Joker attacking the Gotham Theater with his Joker Gas. It’s got a classic Batcopter, a Joker cable car, victims cops and a decor to die for (well, as far as the cops goes, literally).  Also check out the video highlighing all the neat little tidbits and moving parts.

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Obama by Sienkiewicz

President Barack Obama by Bill Sienkiewicz

On his Twitter page, pictoral warlock extraordinaire Bill Sienkiewicz posted these two portraits of president Obama (if there ever was a president that deserves the title ad infinitum, it’s this one) that reflect both aspects that I admire in the man. He is the grave statesman who needs to make equally grave decisions compromises to saveguard the long gain, and at the same time the warm, humourful man with a wit that is equally sharp as it is encompassing. Maybe not a man of the people, but at least more a man with the people than the current one will ever be.

President Barack Obama by Bill Sienkiewicz

(artwork © Bill Sienkiewicz, with thanks to J and K)

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It’s the gutter that counts

Comics scholars like Scott McCloud have spent many a page on the meaning and importance of the gutter, the white space between a the different panels on a comics page where, it would seem, all the magic of visual storytelling happens. Here’s a series of ads by Havas Worldwide for the Paris transport authority, RATP making very good use of that “space between” to inform you of all the things you best don’t do while in the métro.

They’re quite funny stories, and they all have in common that whatever calamity happened, you don’t see it. It happens in the gutter. So mind the gap.

(Illustrations by UK artist Toby Leigh; via Adeevee)

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Bagge in Cuba

One Bagge leads to another, it would seem. In June, 2016 Reason magazine published a four-page strip in which Peter Bagge reported on a recent trip to Cuba, a “part fact finding mission, part plain ol’ vacation tour. He called it “Let’s Ruin Cuba“, thus summarizing his feelings about the future for the island, with our without US sanctions…

(Strip © Peter Bagge and

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